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Variation in egg size of the northern pintail

January 1, 1996

Egg size is an important determinant of reproductive investment by birds. For many species, total investment in a clutch is limited by the size of stored reserves (Ankney and MacInnes 1978, Esler and Grand 1994a). Egg size determines the unit by which these stored reserves are partitioned. Individual females in most species of waterfowl show a high repeatability for egg size, implying that individual either cannot, or do not, alter their egg size in response to varying environmental conditions (batt and Prince 1979, Duncan 1987, Laurila and Hario 1988, Lessells et al 1989, Flint and Sedinger 1992). Thus differences in egg size appear to represent different reproductive strategies among individuals.

Fitness can be measured by the number of offspring an individual contributes to a population. Egg size may be related to fitness in some species fo waterfowl as young from larger eggs are better able to survive extreme conditions (Ankney 1980, Thomas and Brown 1988). Birds laying larger clutches are almost always more fit as they fledge more young (Lessells 1986, Rockwell et al 1987, Flint 1993). These fitness patterns create the potential for a trade-off between clutch size and egg size where females laying large clutches of small eggs have the same fitness as females laying smaller clutches of large eggs. The fact that Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) utilize stored reserves (Mann and Sedinger 1993, esler and Grand 1994a) and have a high repeatability for egg size (i.e. egg size is fixed) (Duncan 1987), makes them candidates to engage in clutch size=egg size trade-offs (Rowher 1988, Rowher and Eisenhauer 1989). An inverse relationship between egg size and clutch size would be indicative of a phenotypic trade-off among these fitness components. Our goal in this study was to describe egg size variation in Northern Pintails (hereafter pintails) with regard to female age, body size, clutch size, year, initiation date, and nesting attempt. We compare our results to those from other populations of nesting pintails and discuss whether phenotypic clutch size-egg size tradeoffs exist for pintails.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1996
Title Variation in egg size of the northern pintail
DOI 10.2307/1369519
Authors Paul L. Flint, James B. Grand
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Condor
Index ID 70182063
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center; Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB; Coop Res Unit Atlanta

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